Family Auks (Alcidae)

Near Threatened

Razorbill (Alca torda)


French: Petit Pingouin German: Tordalk Spanish: Alca común

Alca Torda


, 1758,

Stora Karlsö, Baltic Sea


Populations of E Canada, W Greenland, Norway and Murmansk described as race pica, having additional furrow on upper mandible, but this characteristic now known to be age-related; included in nominate. Proposed form britannica (Britain) synonymized with islandica. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. t. torda Linnaeus, 1758 – E North America (Digges Sound and SE Baffin I S to Gulf of Maine), Greenland and E to Bear I, Norway, Denmark, Baltic Sea region, Murmansk and White Sea.
  • A. t. islandica C. L. Brehm, 1831 – Iceland, Faeroes, Britain, Ireland E to Heligoland, and S to Channel Is and NW France (Brittany).
  • Winters mostly offshore and along sea coasts in N part of boreal water zone, S in W Atlantic to Long I (New York), casually to South Carolina and Florida; in E Atlantic, from S Norway and Baltic to W Mediterranean.

    Descriptive notes

    37–41 cm; 524–890 g; wingspan 63–66 cm. Similar to Uria, but body and wings average slightly smaller, with head and bill larger, appearing... read more


    Generally silent at sea. At breeding colonies utters guttural, croaking growls “grrrroh” or a more... read more


    Marine, occurring offshore and along sea coasts in boreal or low Arctic waters. Breeds in rocky... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly fish and crustaceans throughout year. Considerable geographical and temporal variation in principal prey during summer: in Labrador... read more


    Timing variable, with laying earliest at S extremes of range, e.g. Wales from early May; later at higher latitudes where waters colder, e.g... read more


    Winters mostly offshore at sea, in W Atlantic off E Newfoundland as far as Flemish Cap (c. 700 km... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Currently considered Near Threatened. Total breeding population estimated in 1996 at c. 700,000 pairs (300,000–1,200,000), with roughly 70% in... read more

    Recommended citation

    Nettleship, D.N., Sharpe, C.J., Boesman, P. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). Razorbill (Alca torda). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 20 February 2020).